Sorry, White Bread: Why Whole Grain Always Wins in the Wheat Wars

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

White bread gets a bad rap, and we’re all encouraged to eat more whole grains, but the number of people who understand why they’re grabbing the whole wheat loaves in the store over the white ones are few and far between. Many don’t question the health experts and simply buy the healthier variety, which is great, but for those who aren’t convinced that the whole wheat loaves are really that much better than the white ones, a little understanding can go a long way.

That’s why NPR came out with a report Tuesday that detailed exactly why whole wheat bread is better than white bread, and even where we can find the whole grain in our wheat bread. The publication enlisted physician David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital to help consumers realize a more thorough understanding, and from his explanation, readers and listeners could expect just that.

As highlighted by NPR, white flour is a high-glycemic food, and thus, Ludwig explains, “That white flour is going to digest much more quickly, leading to a surge and crash in blood sugar that may stimulate hunger later in the meal, but also raise risk for diabetes and heart disease.” That helps explain why a diet rich in whole grains is linked to lower rates of heart disease, certain cancers, and Type 2 diabetes, but it even goes further than that. Studies have shown that refined carbohydrates like white flour can exacerbate problems of high blood cholesterol compared with saturated fat, and it all goes back to how certain grains are refined and processed.

Even some whole grain breads are better than others, and that’s because, according to NPR, wheat is milled in different ways. According to Ludwig, when it comes to processing foods, “less is more,” which explains why the highly refined white flour is at the end of the health spectrum, while whole grains loaves that contain chunks of grain still intact are considered best. Ludwig explains why, via NPR: “Whole foods, minimally processed foods, certainly whole grains, take awhile to digest. They have to travel down the intestinal tract, and the sugars are slowly absorbed out of that whole grain so that blood sugar and insulin levels rise only modestly.”

That’s why next time you’re in the bread aisle at the grocery store, you should look for the loaves that don’t look like they have been made up of flour processed into oblivion. There’s a difference between how the body metabolizes grains that are still intact, and grains that have been refined and reconstructed. In addition, NPR pointed out Tuesday that eating whole grains instead of highly refined grains may help reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and if that’s not a great marketing angle for certain bread baking companies and artisanal bakers, we don’t know what is.

Even Dan Gottfredson, who operates a Great Harvest Bread Co. bakery in Rockville, Maryland, told NPR that his best-selling breads are the crunchy, high-fiber loaves because it is thus evident that consumers are catching on to the reality that the more chunky the bread, the better.

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